Carnegie-Knight News21 students investigate hate crimes

National initiative, headquartered at Cronkite School, includes more than a dozen digital stories, documentary, 5-episode podcast exploring the legacy of hate in America

Leonard Downie Jr., Weil Family Professor of Journalism, meets with project editors and fellows to discuss stories for the Carnegie-Knight News21 project. Photo by Justin Parham/News21


The Carnegie-Knight News21 program, a national multi-university reporting initiative headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, released a major multimedia investigation this week about the growing climate of hate in the United States.

Thirty-eight journalism students from 19 universities traveled to 36 states, including a 7,000-mile road trip around the country, conducting hundreds of interviews and reviewing thousands of pages of federal court documents, FBI data and state and federal statutes for “Hate in America.” 

The project found more than 2.4 million crimes suspected of being motivated by hate in the five years between 2012 and 2016, based on an analysis of the federal National Crime Victimization Survey. 

“Hate in America” includes more than a dozen digital stories and a 43-minute documentary exploring the legacy of hate in America and how it has shaped the country today. The fellows also produced a five-episode podcast following the life cycle of hate.

The investigation will be published by major media organizations across the country. Portions of last year’s News21 investigation were published by The Washington Post,, USA Today and the Center for Public Integrity, in addition to dozens of regional and local news outlets.

“This project takes a deep look into intolerance, racism and hate crimes in the United States,” said Jacquee Petchel, News21 executive editor and a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. “Our fellows were fair and aggressive in reaching out to people to get a range of voices for this project. They were immersed in cultures that would be uncomfortable for even the very best professional reporters. They handled each interview with a high degree of skill and professionalism.”

Other faculty who worked with students on the project include Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of the Washington Post and Weil Family Professor of Journalism at Cronkite, and Sarah Cohen, the former New York Times data editor who serves at the Knight Chair in Data Journalism.

Work on the project started in January with a seminar on hate-crime issues taught by Downie and Petchel. Students heard from experts on the topic, analyzed data, researched topics and conducted interviews across the country.

“The News21 student journalists have produced a deeply reported, well-documented word, audio and visual portrait of the current state of hate in America,” Downie said. “They traveled thousands of miles, capturing stories, voices and faces of victims of hate crimes and incidents, inciters of hate, and Americans concerned about it.” 

Downie said students found white nationalists who are recruiting on college campuses and those who are spoiling for fights in street demonstrations. He said they also documented continuing attacks on African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community, Native American women and Muslim and Jewish Americans.

Justin Parham, a Cronkite graduate student, worked on stories examining hate crimes against African-Americans as well as violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. As a videographer, he traveled to five states, including a visit to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and shooting video of the imperial wizard of the “Original Knights of America, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” 

“This has been an amazing experience,” Parham said. “Having this opportunity so early in my career is one of those things that you can’t ask for. It’s just one of those blessings that you have to receive. I just tried to be sponge and soak up everything.” 

Other Cronkite staff who worked with students were: assistant editor Maureen West, previously an editor at The Arizona Republic; web application developer Bhuvan Aggarwal; multimedia and design editor Alex Lancial; data visualization developer Hari Subramaniam; and photo and multimedia editor Jim Tuttle. 

News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate that top journalism students can produce groundbreaking reporting on major national topics and present their findings in innovative ways.

Over the past nine years, Carnegie-Knight News21 projects have included investigations into voting rights, post-9/11 veterans, marijuana laws, drinking-water quality and guns in America, among other topics. The projects have won numerous awards, including four EPPY Awards from Editor & Publisher magazine, two Student Edward R. Murrow Awards and a host of honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, considered the Pulitzer Prizes of collegiate journalism.

Universities participating in the 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 program are ASU, DePauw University, Dublin City University, Elon University, George Washington University, Indiana University, Kent State University, Louisiana State University, Morgan State University, St. Bonaventure University, Syracuse University, University of British Columbia, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Iowa, University of Mississippi, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas at Austin.

Carnegie-Knight News21 fellows are supported by their universities as well as a variety of foundations, news organizations and philanthropists, including The Arizona Republic, The Dallas Morning News, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Hearst Foundations, Knight Foundation, Murray Endowment, Myrta J. Pulliam and John and Patty Williams. Fellows also are supported by gifts honoring the legacies of photographer Charles Cushman and Irish crime reporter Veronica Guerin. 

The fellows are:

  • Allie Bice, ASU, Hearst Fellow
  • Abby Bitterman, University of Oklahoma,Ethics and Excellence Fellow
  • Penelope Blackwell, Morgan State University
  • Garet Bleir, Syracuse University
  • Brandon Bounds, Kent State University
  • Scott Bourque, ASU, Hearst Fellow
  • Brittany Brown, University of Mississippi
  • Lillianna Byington, George Washington University
  • Brendan Campbell, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Andrew Capps, University of Tennessee, John and Patty Williams Fellow
  • Renata Cló, ASU, Hearst Fellow
  • Rosanna Cooney, Dublin City University, Veronica Guerin Dublin City University Fellow
  • Catherine Devine, Dublin City University, Veronica Guerin Ireland Funds Independent News and Media Fellow
  • Tessa Diestel, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Alexis Egeland, ASU, Hearst Fellow
  • Katie Gagliano, Louisiana State University
  • Kianna Gardner, ASU, Don Bolles Fellow
  • Brooks Hepp, DePauw University, Myrta Pulliam Fellow
  • Ashley Hopko, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Kaylen Howard, University of North Texas, Dallas Morning News Fellow
  • Jimmie Jackson, ASU, Hearst Fellow
  • Storme Jones, University of Oklahoma,Ethics and Excellence Fellow
  • Emma Keith, University of Oklahoma,Ethics and Excellence Fellow
  • Shelby Knowles, University of Texas at Austin
  • Carley Lanich, Indiana University, Charles Cushman Fellow
  • Ashley Mackey, ASU, Knight Fellow
  • Tilly Marlatt, DePauw University, Myrta Pulliam Fellow
  • Lenny Martinez Dominguez, Syracuse University
  • Angel Mendoza, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Emmanuel Morgan, Elon University
  • Connor Leavy Murphy, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Justin Parham, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Jasmine Putney, University of Iowa, Murray Endowment Fellow
  • Megan Ross, University of Oklahoma,Ethics and Excellence Fellow
  • Daniel Smitherman, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Bryce Spadafora, St. Bonaventure University
  • Rebecca Walters, University of Oklahoma,Ethics and Excellence Fellow
  • Anya Zoledziowski, University of British Columbia 

More Law, journalism and politics


Law students sit outside the Beus Center for Law and Society at Arizona State University.

ASU Law students earn record number of judicial clerkships

Students who graduate from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University are used to making an impact. Now,…

young, voters, polling place, line, election

2 out of 3 Gen Z voters in Arizona say they will vote in November, ASU survey finds

Two out of three Gen Z registered voters in Arizona say they plan to vote in this year’s general election, while four in five say…

Exterior of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus.

First director named for ASU’s Center for Culture and Inclusion in Media

In a significant move toward enhancing media practices, Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass…